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Lara Finkbeiner, '13, Joins Michigan Law as New Public Interest Director

By Jordan Poll
September 17, 2019

It was the vibrancy of the public interest community that first drew Lara Finkbeiner, '13, to Michigan Law. After graduation, she moved to New York to fulfill a longstanding dream of being a refugee advocate at the International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP), first as an Equal Justice Fellow and then as deputy legal director. Throughout her six years in New York, Finkbeiner maintained strong ties to the Law School and regularly returned to the Quad to mentor students. More recently, she returned to Ann Arbor to join Michigan Law's Office of Career Planning. "It's a natural extension of my experience advising interns, volunteers, and staff attorneys at IRAP," said Finkbeiner, the Law School's new public interest director. "It's great to be back. The Law School has always felt like home."

Inspired by the strength, energy, and support of the Law School, Finkbeiner is dedicated to programming that reflects the evolving needs and experiences of students. This includes driving more public interest employers to campus in an effort to create a more robust interview program, and advising law students during one-on-one mentoring sessions, like those that played a key role in defining her path toward public interest. "As a student, I met regularly with the former public interest director, and her guidance shaped my career inside and outside of law school," said Finkbeiner. "That experience played no small role in my decision to apply for this position. I aspire to have that same kind of impact on the students and community here today."

From incoming 1Ls to graduating 3Ls, Finkbeiner will guide them through their law school experience, making it the best possible platform from which to launch their careers. "I understand firsthand how daunting the public interest path can be," she said. "I'm here to talk about how to make students' passion for social justice into a fulfilling career and address any anxieties about finances. I want to ensure that students feel supported from the moment they step on campus until they secure the job of their dreams."

Finkbeiner is grateful she chose to pursue a public interest career and looks forward to sharing her outlook, experience, and connections with a community she's held in esteem since she was a prospective student. As a double Wolverine who earned her BA in 2008, Finkbeiner said she always knew she would be back in Ann Arbor someday. After working as a Fulbright Scholar in Ecuador and earning a master's degree in forced migration at the University of Oxford, she did just that.

As a Michigan Law student, she was involved in both the General Clinic and the Human Trafficking Clinic before traveling to South Africa for an externship in Cape Town, where she worked directly with refugees every day. She spent her 1L summer at the AIRE Centre in London doing human rights work in Europe, and received a Dean's Public Service Fellowship that enabled her to spend her 2L summer with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. At graduation, she received the Hessel E. Yntema Award for distinction in international and comparative law. "The Law School laid the foundation for my public interest career," said Finkbeiner. "I've had the privilege of doing incredible, meaningful work every day for years while also having time and energy to devote to my family. Now, I'm here to show students that the same career fulfillment and work-life balance is within their reach too. My family is living proof."

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